Teenagers pioneer health care training

A dozen unemployed young people have completed a four week training exercise at Alder Hey Hospital 

And when they graduate in July the teenagers, all aged 16-18, will be the first in the UK to hold a new qualification for providing health care support to children.

The initiative was the brainchild of Gill Mason, Principal of Alt Valley Community Trust which runs the’Communiversity’ in  Croxteth and there has been an unprecedented demand for future places on the course from schools and potential students, many of whom are looking for options as the end of the academic year draws near.

It was conceived as a way to encourage young people to work in the NHS.  Almost a third of workers in the NHS are aged 50 plus and the average age of an NHS health worker is set to rise to 47 by 2023. The crisis is spurred on by the pressure of the working environment forcing many into early retirement. Getting younger people into careers in the NHS has been identified as a way to ease the burden.

Three times as many young people applied for the course than the number of places available. The successful applicants have been training for six months in total, including the work placement at Alder Hey.  Successful completion means the teenagers will be the first in the UK to be awarded a certificate in Health Care Support in the Paediatric Setting from CACHE (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education).

The funding to complete the training was targeted to those in the NEET category (Not in Employment, Education or Training).  Elliot Quine (pictured), from Croxteth, was the youngest person on the course at just 16 years of age; he was joined by other teenagers from across Merseyside.

When the teenagers graduate it is expected that they will go on to either full apprenticeships, further training such as nursing or another job within the NHS. Their progress will be monitored to assess the longer term impact and to inform plans to roll out an expansion across the UK.

Alt Valley Community Trust joined forces with Alder Hey Children’s hospital to deliver the practical elements of the course; while in the classroom recruits have been skilled up in everything from English and Maths to personal confidence.

Gill Mason said: “We are using vocational education and training to   unlock potential and give young people a valuable role in society.  

“There are more than 300,000 support staff in the UK, assisting doctors, nurses and other health professionals in caring for the sick and injured.  Until now there has been no specific training for those doing such a job with children.”

Each week Alt Valley is receiving dozens of enquiries from schools and students who want to know more and the next course is already over-subscribed. Gill added: “The interest in this course means that we have seen an unprecedented number of enquiries. Potential future students – especially those who don’t want to stay on in full time education – see the qualification as an alternative to college or sixth form'”

James Glendenning, CEO of Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation, the umbrella body that funded the initiative, said:  “Overwhelmed hospitals have seen staffing requirements increase and budgets fall.  While many solutions are mooted, few see the light of day.  This grass roots initiative is designed to give young people, who would otherwise have been unemployed, a taste of working in the NHS and a massive boost to their career prospects.”

There are 24 children’s hospitals across the UK that could benefit directly from the qualification. Julie Hyde, Executive Director at CACHE said: “CACHE developed this qualification in partnership with Alder Hey specifically to prepare learners with the knowledge, understanding and skills to cover a broad spectrum of care responsibilities in a paediatric setting. 

“It’s fantastic to see that Alt Valley Community Trust is receiving so much interest from young people aspiring to gain the CACHE Level 3 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Healthcare Support in the Paediatric Setting.”